- It’s Bogart putting the lives of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, and the welfare of the world, before himself in the 1942 film, “Casablanca”.
- It’s the man who opens the door for a woman; the man, woman or child who extends a helping hand to a person or animal in need.
- It’s the person risking one’s life for country, rescuing others and putting out a fire in a building, hotshots fighting wildfires for days at a time, and men and woman policing our streets and intervening to save lives at risk.
- It’s first responders, medical personnel, and recently, cashiers, teachers, and other “ordinary” service providers who worked during a pandemic so people could acquire essential food, goods, and services.
- It’s Prince Phillip bowing down and subjugating himself to his wife, the Queen, forsaking “male privilege” in reverence to country and the Crown. (Depicted in the series, “The Crown”)
- It’s Queen Elizabeth II who gave 70 years of her life in service to the people of Great Britain.
- It’s also the mother who would give-up her child to the woman claiming to be the child’s mother, rather than have King Solomon’s judgement carried out, that the child be cut in half and split between the two disputing women.
I remember in the seventies, my mother and my sister telling me I was self-centered in terms of how I lived. I hadn’t married and become a mother, so my life lacked the responsibility to husband and children that was a part of their daily lives. I don’t remember much more; I only remember the comment which to me, referred to the freedom I had to focus on myself. Or perhaps it's a character defect I still need to overcome.
I also didn’t have a man to turn to when I needed to get the car serviced, purchase a heating unit for the house, climb on the roof to set up the swamp cooler for summer, mow the lawn, shovel snow…and all those jobs a husband might manage or share. I have friends, who in their marriage, label things “blue jobs” or “pink jobs”, I believe, to have fun with it. But the idea that I’ve often had to wear both hats, isn’t the point and in many ways, I’m still learning to put others before myself. Surely parents adopt that behavior early on.
The concept of my being a servant was initially distasteful to me.
I also remember feeling disgruntled during my early years as a public-school teacher in the mid-seventies when, during a staff meeting, our building principal called us, “public servants”. I was aghast! Me, a servant?! Yes, as are all firefighters, police officers, public health officials, librarians, teachers, politicians, and more. Ideally, this service is to country and community, rising above any and all self-interest.
Over time, this concept of service that was initially so distasteful in my twenties, has become a value. It is the ideal of helping others. I first recognized the value and beauty of service in 12-Step Programs. The 12th Step recognizes our need to be of help to others as an aspect of continued spiritual life and recovery: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” We’ve got to help the new guy—the other guy!
Actually, I'd argue we can correctly view much of humanity as being multi-addicted and in that sense, properly employ Step 12 in all our relationships; the gist of which is to practice spiritual principles in how we treat others. Furthermore, we've got to lend a hand where it is needed, when we have the means, as a course of ensuring and furthering goodness and loving kindness in humanity. Besides, when we fail to help when we could, we tend to feel guilt. Guilt contributes to disease and is the perfect fuel for any addictive or otherwise unpleasant behavior.
Additionally, I found profound meaning in the 3rd Step and 7th Step Prayers which I combined with words that worked for me at that time in my life when concepts of "God", "He", "Him", and "His" were objectionable as well. Again, with time, I've found my peace with traditional Christian language and routinely use it without wincing. For a long time, I replaced the word "serve" with "help". Forty years later, when I employ this prayer, I use it as follows:
“God, I offer you my life to do with me and to build with me as you will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, in order that I may best do your will. Take away my defects of character that would limit my usefulness to you and to those I would serve. Take away my difficulties this very hour, in order that victory over them would bear witness to those I would serve, of your love, your power, and of your way of life. May I do your will always. Amen.”
It’s not “Co-dependency” to put someone else first.
Mary Baker Eddy wonderfully tells us: “…and blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good” (“Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures”). This is beauty that penetrates.
"Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace." (1953 Noble Peace Prize Recipient, Albert Schweitzer - 1875–1965)
And now, are we to take a bow in having established a disastrous and dangerous state of affairs in our country and in the world, or do we individually and collectively answer the call and take a stand for goodness and peace that allows human fear, hate, greed, and manipulation rest? This is not really a question but a necessity and a choice we must make. As we confront and reform our own anger, fear, and judgements we open the door that lets in the Light that heals and invites us to be more than we believed we could be.
Remember, it’s Bogart answering a higher calling, responding to human need, and walking off into the fog with Claude Rains in place of Ingrid Bergman.
Photo: Hotshots on the frontline of a California wildfire. (from an online CNN post)